Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our jobs as parents or in our relationships and we are really good at loving people but not so good at loving ourselves. I have three powerful steps that you take to love yourself.
I really like to think of love as a choice and as a verb, more than a feeling or a description. I think those things are certainly included in our conceptualization of love. What if we were to look at it as a choice first? Every interaction we have is going to fall on one side or the other. I don't think there's a neutral option. I think it's going to be either love or hate. And I use the word hate because people hate that word. Honestly, what's the opposite of love, anyway? Well, that is where hate comes in.
Let’s get in line on one side or the other, the hate choice for example. What does it take to hate? I think there are three steps to that. You assume the worst about someone you don't know. Assume that they are evil. You practice pride because you know you are right. And they, by definition are going to be wrong. And third, you think to destroy. How can I hurt or punish that person?
What does this have to do with ourselves? How often do we assume the worst about ourselves? “Oh, I'm just so…” whatever, right? We practice pride because we know we are right. And people around us are going to tell us, “Oh, you're a good person.” You're like, “Whatever. If you really knew me,” right? And we blow off their opinion because we are hanging on to our destructive pride that says, we know alright.
The third thing, think to destroy. Look for ways to punish yourself. Stew on how you are not worthy and you don't qualify for this or that. Look how hateful that particular choice is. What's the love choice all about? There's 3 steps for that too.
Assume the best. You know what I've learned about people in my 25 plus years of clinical experience? People are doing their best to do the right things that would enhance their happiness with all the knowledge they have and with the resources that are available to them. I think people generally are doing their best, and I believe that is true of you. What if you were to assume that about yourself?
Assume the best, practice humility. Be willing to give up your own opinion of yourself and start listening to the people who love you. Maybe they see you more clearly than you see yourself. I got a PhD and I have an opinion about you. Oh, yes. It's easy to blow that off and say, “Well, Dr. Paul, you don't really know me.” Well, you are reading this article right now. You are interested in doing what is best for you. So, let's just assume that maybe all those people who love us see us more clearly that we do. You are a good person. Accept it. Have the humility to be open to that opinion.
The third thing, think to create, not to destroy. That's a hate choice. Create, build up. Enhance and elevate. What if we did that for ourselves? Assume the best. Be open and humble. And think to build and create and lift. That is powerful. When we look at love as a choice, it's also a commitment.
My wife shared this with me recently. She heard a podcast or speech that was given and this person made distinction between love as a feeling and love as a commitment. When you say, “I love you.” It may have nothing to do with how you are feeling in the moment. It may have everything to do with what you are committing to that person. I love to share with parents that their job is to love their kids no matter what and even if. I think that is our job as a parent. What about with ourselves? What about with our spouse? What about with those other people in our world? Same thing. To commit, to love. Doesn't necessarily have anything to do with our current feeling. It's a commitment, it's a promise.
It's a proven fact that we experience and feel more love toward those of whom we have some responsibility and take some care. Well, that's a good clue for one way to choose love toward ourselves. Take care of yourself. We already know that if you do that, you will feel more loving toward yourself. Take care of yourself. Take time to do the things that light you up. Spend some time taking care of your parents, your health, your finances, your fitness. Everything that has to do with the functioning of this person that is you. Take care of yourself. What a powerful way to love.
Here's the second powerful tip. Be fully present. This is backed up by research that shows that when our mind gets pulled in to the past or into the future, we start to experience depression or shame or guilt or anxiety and fear and worry. Those are all past or future focused. Present is good. Because right now we are good. Be fully present. If you are doing the dishes, be present with the dishes. Feel the water on your hands. Feel the sense of gratitude that you have dishes and you had food to get them dirty. Not everybody in the world experience this level of abundance. Connect with that. That's going to change how you feel.
The word present in the English language has at least three meanings. It means here, in this place. It means now, in this time. And it means, gift. We can give someone a present and that's a gift. I think it's a gift that we can give ourselves to be fully present with whomever and with whatever we are experiencing. That is a powerful way to choose love for yourself.
The 3rd powerful tip that I want to share with you has to do with our focus, and where our focus is, There are different areas that can draw our attention, and the short version is it is either about you or it is about other people. This is a paradox, one of the best ways to love yourself is to forget about yourself. I already said you got to take care of yourself because you are going to love those that you care for. But beyond that self-care, what if we just forgot about ourselves for a moment? What if it’s not about me? What if your focus gets shifted to other people, and how you can bless or lift or elevate those other people? You will start to feel better.
When you focus on yourself you get insecurity or anxiety. I had a power full experience with this as a young man. At the age of 21, I had just completed 2 years of service where my focus was on the people that I was serving. It was an amazing opportunity for me at that age to experience that. As I came home from this service experience, my focus shifted from serving those people to now, “What am I going to do?” And it's a question I had to answer. But honestly, as my focus came back to me, the anxiety started to return. And I started to feel a little lost. It's a powerful concept to get outside of ourselves and focus on other people. Which is one of the best things that we can do to love ourselves.
I love the paradoxes in psychology. This is fun, isn't it? If you need help in learning how to operate the equipment to create positivity, I've got a course that I think you are going to love. It's called the Positivity Power-Up. It's a great way to choose love for yourself. Go to positivitypowerup.com and you'll see what I'm talking about.